Who says Congress can’t get anything done?

In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, Congress this summer passed, and President Trump signed into law, the Great American Outdoors Act, providing billions of dollars for a popular conservation project and much-needed maintenance for national parks.

The only touch of gray to this silver lining is that it took so long. Our national parks — famously and correctly referred to as “America’s Best Idea” — have in places fallen into disrepair from neglect. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been integral to preserving land for the public’s use.

President Trump even tried to cut the LWCF before he had a change of heart, allowing the Great American Outdoors Act to move forward. Not a moment too soon.

The legislation will provide about $900 million a year for the fund, double the current spending. The LWCF has invested more than $190 million in projects in Maine, including work at Acadia National Park and on the Appalachian Trail, plus smaller projects in communities of all sizes throughout the state.

The law also provides $1.9 billion a year over five years for improvements at national parks, wildlife refuges and rangelands.


The funding is good news, but it doesn’t meet the estimated $20 billion of backlogged work needed on federal lands in total, nor the estimated $11.9 billion needed by the National Park Service.

The NPS is full of old and aging assets. For decades, inconsistent funding has meant that the service’s many assets — about 75,000, second only in the federal government to the Defense Department, including visitor centers, battlefields, campgrounds and more — have been allowed to deteriorate.

The situation at Acadia National Park is illustrative of the service’s problems as a whole. Aging structures there have not been maintained, leading to an estimated maintenance backlog of $65 million. Meanwhile, the park is getting 3.5 million visits a year, more than double that of a decade ago, adding to the wear and tear.

Acadia is a huge draw for Maine and an anchor for the region, generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Public investment there is necessary, and would be meaningful for tens of thousands of Mainers.

That should be the message delivered Monday to the assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks for the U.S. Department of the Interior, who will be visiting Acadia National Park. Park advocates are hoping Maine will see some of the funding from the Great American Outdoors Act.

Acadia and the people of Maine would benefit from that funding. They deserve such investment in our public lands, as do the people who use and benefit from national parks all over the country.

Voters should make sure that Congress knows how much the Great American Outdoors Act is appreciated, and how the bipartisan support of our public lands should not stop there.

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